Saturday, June 9, 2012

Peter and Pia Cincotti: How Deep Is The Ocean?

We know one another's faults, virtues, catastrophes, mortifications, triumphs, rivalries, desires, and how long we can each hang by our hands to a bar. We have been banded together under pack codes and tribal laws. - Rose Macaulay

Happy Saturday!
I hope you have had a great week and preparing for a great weekend.
This has been an incredible week for me.
Today is Cole Porter's birthday.

I'm celebrating a songwriter AND his sister who are carrying on the musical theater tradition and adding the next chapter to its legacy.

One of the highlights for me was sitting down on Tuesday morning with Peter and Pia Cincotti after many failed attempts due to our schedules. I, of coursem was very familiar with Peter. As a matter of fact, I am listening to his fantastic new CD, Metropolis, as I write this blog this AM.
Even though Pia and I had spoken on the phone several times, I would be meeting both for the first time. Tommy Tune's personal assistant, Peter Glebo, contacted me and asked if I would do a blog feature on them because he is very excited about their upcoming musical How Deep Is The Ocean?...which has nothing to do with the Irving Berlin song of the same title. Peter has been very supportive of this project since he first saw one of the earlier readings. It will be premiering on July 12th as part of the New York Music Theater Festival. I'll be there! AND I hope you'll join me!!

So I went to the Cincotti apartment on Tuesday morning. I'm going to start off by saying I thought that Peter and Pia, having never met them, were a married couple. After the major embarrassment of finding out they were brother and sister, the ice was broken and it was great fun getting to know both.

I think the most famous brother and sister performing team are Donny and Marie Osmond. Several years ago, those cabaret diva sisters Ann Hampton and Liz Callaway did an incredible show called Sibling Revelry. That could very well be the theme of this blog. Peter and Pia have an enviable working relationship and are totally in synch with each other.

Pia tells me, off the bat, that this story (How Deep Is The Ocean?) is a really far-fetched premise but is rooted in deep problems. It's a metaphor for how far someone will go and how deep their feelings are. The show is a musical comedy. It is a love triangle with the central character being a pool guy who is obsessed with chlorine. That is his love and passion. He has a wife named Jackie who is over looked. Then there is a handyman who is in love with the wife. Peter tells me it is a very traditional love story in a way, but it is under the veil of this very cartoonish world. Pia says it is a coming of age story for the fifty-plus set. It is not about being fifty-plus. It is about reflecting back and asking the questions "Did I make the right choices?" or "Did I make mistakes?" "Did I choose the right path?" The music is very traditional musical theater styles. Peter says he wanted to go back to his musical theater idols. There is a mix of traditional, a pop sound for today's audiences, ballads, up-tempos, a bluesy song, and a stride number done in a Fats Waller style. Peter said he tried to assign each character a specific musical style.

Pia is definitely the impetus behind this. They spent their childhood summers on the Jersey shore. She remembers their pool guy who would often talk with them like they were very interested in chlorine. She often wondered what this guys biggest dreams were. She spent the summer watching how intently this guy took care of their pool. Before she knew it, she was writing a play around these themes. It started out from a monologue assignment from a class she was taking. A year or say later, that became a one act. Then she thought, "This could be a musical!" It really is an outrageous theme! That is what drew her to have Peter write the music.She feels that even though one character is singing about  his love of chlorine, for example, that the song would still work out of the context of the show. The wife of a pool man could apply to the wife of a doctor.

Their mode of working together started out as a lot of back and forth. Pia came to Peter with this one act template and asked him to write a song for a specific character in a specific situation. Then in 2009, they started expanding the show into a bigger project. Peter had a new album come out around the same time and he was busy promoting that. So getting together was sometimes problematic. Then after that while he was contemplating his next project, he started thinking about Pia's project. So, he sat down and wrote a song, then another, and before he knew it, he had a full score! He eventually had twenty songs! Then they started shaping the show. Their way of working together is right out of those old MGM movies. Pia may get a phone call at four in the morning from Peter saying, "Wait till you hear what I just wrote!" There were also sections in the show where they both knew a song would go. For example, the pool guy's passion for chlorine is so great that he can't speak about it, he has to sing about it. Pia has written monologues in certain sections of the script that Peter would take a step further and making it a song. They go back and forth then shaping the scene around the song.

They have had two previous "readings" of the show with a full audience. One was in the fall. This was mostly for the benefit of Peter and Pia to see if they actually have a show. The audience response has convinced them that they do. They also knew what needed to be rewritten. The other reading was just a few weeks ago. This has been a continual process. They are still tightening and tweaking as they prepare for its New York "premier" next month. Pia is aware that some people might look at the theme of the play and think, "Chlorine! I don't want to see this!!" But when they hear the songs, they are really moved. Think Urinetown!

They have gotten very lucky with their cast. Their lead is Eric Levitan who has not done anything on Broadway, but they are convinced that will change. Michelle Miller, who was in Wicked. Theater pervades THAT household. Michelle is married to Norbert Leo Butz. Both of them (Eric and Michelle) were involved in the previous readings. They are equally excited about the rest of the ensemble. Pia says it is a cast that you wouldn't automatically think would be in a musical. They wanted to go "against type" and go with a more realistic look. Pia says this musical bridges two generations. The demographic of Pia's age really gets the humor. The demographic of her mother's age really gravitates towards the music.

Now, here is me putting Pia and Peter on the analyst's couch and delving deeper into their psyches.
I begin by asking Peter who the most iconic person is that he ever met and if that person lived up to his expectations. Without missing a beat, he says their father. Even though he was not a famous person, he shaped both of their lives.Even though he is "gone", he continues to do so. He passed when Peter was thirteen.

I asked Pia when she knew she desired to pursue a career in the arts. It happened for her when she was eight. She saw Phantom of The Opera and could not get enough of it. She decided that she wanted to act and sing. It took her a few years to realize that that wasn't exactly the path that she was meant to be on. As she got older, she discovered that she loved to write and that she could parlay her creative writing to dramatic writing. She started writing in high school, continued  to do so right through college, and seized every opportunity she had to write.

I asked Peter what he has learned about making his relationships in this business more resourceful and long lasting. His response is that honesty and truthfulness is the key. "Especially in a business where it is not about that."

I asked Pia how she deals with anxiety in this business. She says this is her first foray into this business. She is anxious because of that. She is not much of a sleeper so it catches her there. She does try to make up for that when she can. She focuses on what she needs to get done. It is mind over matter. Right now, it's just keeping her head on straight.

Peter's favorite Broadway choreographer? He admits he is not as well versed in that area as Pia is. Tommy Tune and Rob Ashford immediately come to mind.

Life lessons that Pia has learned from her parents: The importance of family. "When things go bad, that's truly all you have." When she was a young child, her father used to tell her that you could never go home again so cherish the moment.

As my readers know, I have been campaigning for Carol Channing to win the 2012 Kennedy Center Honor (please sign the petition below). I asked Peter if he thinks she deserves this and if so to elaborate on that. He played Hello, Dolly! for her when he was six on television! Carol was an early supporter of Peter's. They appeared together on a morning show on NBC. He played a song that he wrote. He was a child prodigy. Then Carol came on. He learned Hello, Dolly! in anticipation of that. Being six, he had no idea what he was playing. "YES, she deserves it!"

Does Pia sing herself? Only in the confines of her apartment. Pia's inspiration for her writing is rooted in real emotions she feels. She relates to people who are much older than herself. Sad songs inspire her the most. A lyric or two can get her going on an entire "rant". She is a huge fan of Sondheim because of the subject matters he takes on. "So dark, and yet so pretty...beautifying the dark."

Peter just played in New York last week at Le Poisson Rouge which was sold out! On June 29th, he will be playing at the Palais Imperial Compiegne in Compiegne, France. The polar opposite musically of what he and Pia are doing. He is also currently very involved in rehearsals for How Deep Is The Ocean?

What would Peter say to his fifteen year old self? Appreciate the moment you are in. His ambitions of where he is and where he would like to go musically are just as strong as when he was fifteen. Appreciate the process, the not knowing. That moment of how am I going to write this song by the morning. The whole thing of smelling the roses even when the pressure is on and striving. He reads interviews on people he loves and he always cite those moments of people achieving their goals and their talk of the process to get there. There is something about the journey that is sweeter than the success. He is trying to apply those philosophies to his life although he is "mid journey" right now.

Pia tells me that this is the happiest she has ever been. Going through college and various jobs since then, this is what she has been dreaming of 24/7. "Being creative and not just answering phones." She is very grateful for this opportunity and where she is right now. For years, she was a little disgruntled because she had this story in her head and she wanted to get it "out there". Now, it feels like the time is right.

What makes Peter unhappy? Incompetence, stupidity, those that are "in charge" who don't know what they are doing makes Peter very unhappy at times. Disloyalty, dishonesty. He'll take many more things before taking a lie.

Pia's game plan for making this work. Sticking to her vision. Sticking to what was really there from the beginning really seems to work for her. She is not worrying about changing it to please "outside forces". She finds that when she does do that, she gets off course. Peter agrees. There is a "moment of clarity when you have an inspiration. You have to hold on to that vision, whatever the hell it may be." There is sometimes a contradiction built into this business. They see something in you, they sign you, and then they try to change you! Peter has been lucky that on the record side of thinks that he has been able to complete a record on his own, but that comes sometimes with a cause. But at least he can hold something in his hand and say this is what I felt and wanted. That applies to this show. They are staying true to their vision. They are writing because it makes THEM laugh. Pia's writing skews to a little older because that interests her. Again, she realizes that some would say, "Who is interested in a musical about a man in his upper fifties?" It interests Pia! It matters to her. This character has lived and has made "mistakes". She has been asked in some circles to make him younger. She is not worried about what is more "marketable". She is interested in what makes it more real.
On a side note, I have a rule of them about "criticism": If it's going to HELP me, I want to hear it. If it won't help me, it will go in one ear and out the other because I have strong convictions on what I desire. If it's going to HURT me, keep it to yourself.

Peter says, "Most of the time, criticism comes your way to justify their titles. They need to prove their function ability." Pia admits that some of the cast is NOT fifty plus. They do skew a little young. But they went with what was available to them and they are VERY HAPPY with their casting choices.

A genie pops out of a bottle and grants Peter three wishes. His first wish comes immediately. To bring back all those friends and family who have passed on. Liliane Monteveccchi had the same wish when I interviewed her. The other two wishes don't come as easily. He tends to go towards good health for everyone. Immortality? Probably not and he doesn't wish that on anyone.

Since Peter came on bard as songwriter on this project, his songs now sometimes shape the tone of Pia's writing. She will give a song two or three listens before attempting to put her words on paper.

Myles Savage
Myles Savage from The Platters gave me this next question and I presented it to Peter on Tuesday: "Have you shared any love today?"  Since it was 12:30, he said probably not!

Pia's favorite memory happened when she was a little girl. Peter was doing a television commercial  in Amsterdam. The family took their first European trip. She spent the day with her father while Peter was filming. It was just the two of them.

A great memory! Here's hoping that How Deep Is The Ocean? will bring both Peter and Pia many new memories!

Thank you to Peter and Pia Cincotti and the gifts they have given to the world and will continue to give!

Here's how YOU can help!
 http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/118282?c=home&a=565912



With grateful XOXOXs ,
Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
I want this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!
Do you have any pics? If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at Richard@RichardSkipper.com.

NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!


Join me and Ron Young! (original cast of Hello, Dolly!)
June 29
7-9pm
BARNES AND NOBLE UPPER EAST SIDE, 150 East 86th Street
RICHARD SKIPPER CELEBRATES Ronald Young
In his new memoir, "The Only Boy Who Danced: A Journey from Oklahoma to Broadway and Beyond", Ronald Young details an eventful life in the theater. The Only Boy Who Danced: A Journey from Oklahoma to Broadway and Beyond.

Sometimes Broadway dreams do come true. Fresh from the obscurity of living in the small farming community of Grove, Oklahoma, Ronald Young, at 22, is catapulted onto New York City's "Great White Way"... BROADWAY. After arriving in Manhattan on a Friday, he auditions for his first Broadway show on Monday. Bingo! After three call back auditions he snags his first dancing role in the soon to be mega hit "HELLO, DOLLY!" directed and choreographed by Gower Champion and starring Carol Channing. Armed with three music degrees and lots of enthusiasm he embarks on his career on Broadway.
His resume includes working with some of the legends of the theater: Ethel Merman, Shirley Booth, Angela Lansbury, Tommy Tune, Bernadette Peters, Joel Gray, Chita Rivera, Sandy Duncan, Georgia Engel and many others. He appeared in a host of shows: "MAME," "GEORGE M!" "THE BOY FRIEND," "MY ONE AND ONLY," "A CHORUS LINE" and the films "HAIR" and "ANNIE."
"THE ONLY BOY WHO DANCED" is a series of compelling, riveting stories about Ronald Young's personal quest to make it on Broadway. If you or a friend have hidden aspirations to make it on the New York theatrical scene, you will enjoy his tips and suggestions on how to break through this tough barrier.
Richard Skipper and Ronald Young are sitting down for an exploration of Ronald's incredible career in show business. Email Richard at Richard@RichardSkipper.com for more info

Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
                 
My blog tomorrow will be..Celebrating Judy Garland's 90th Birthday and her connection to the Tonys!



Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!


  
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!





TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            

This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!






3 comments:

  1. From your interview it sounds like they get along very well. I think at times it could be very challenging working with a sibling, or a spouse, such as I do. I think it's easier when both are involved in the entertainment field, because you both understand what the other is going through--it gets tough when both want to be the director! I appreciate your work on this blog--always a pleasure to read!

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  2. What a great article! I've been singing Peter's praises to anybody who would listen for over ten years and am very excited for him and Pia!

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  3. Thank-you so much for this amazing report/blog!!! :D

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